School librarians do whatever is necessary to promote reading, and one way is to organize our collection so students can find just what they want (as in organizing fiction by Subjects). A fellow librarian, Kathy Cunningham from Blalack Middle School in Carrollton TX, gave me the brilliant idea to put books into Special Collections to support our middle school Social Studies curriculum. After seeing her special collections of books for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, I was inspired to do the same in my middle school library.
All 3 collections contain fiction and non-fiction books, with special stickers under or on the spine label to make it easy to find or shelve them. Let me explain my criteria for choosing which books became part of our Special Social Studies Collections, and where I decided to shelve them so they were separate from other books, yet still part of the main library collection.
GlobeTrekker books for 6g World Cultures classes
To identify fiction books I ran reports by Subject for each continent and its countries. For nonfiction, I chose Dewey books related to countries and cultures from 000s-900s. I didn’t include any folktales because 6g ELA teachers do a multicultural folktale unit, nor did I include country “facts” books from the 900s, but I did pull any cultural titles and natural wonders found there. Our students study countries by continent, so I organized books by putting a colorful continent sticker on each one, as you can see in the image below. (My friend used Demco’s color-striped circles mounted horizontally to simulate a flag.) I also added a transparent circle on top of the spine label—pink for fiction, teal for nonfiction.
I located the GlobeTrekker collection near the door to the 6g hallway. It was especially gratifying for me to see kids checking out cultural books from the 300s, art books from the 700s, and natural wonders from the 900s that were “invisible” in their original locations. Kids told me how much they liked all the “new” books I’d gotten for them!
With so many 900 cultural books moved to GlobeTrekker, I had room to place all the non-U.S. country books together for 6g Social Studies, that is, I moved the 980s & 990s into that aisle at the end of the 972s. With colorful signs placed on the shelves to clearly identify each Continent and shelf labels to identify the country numbers, the reading of the countries books has also increased due to fewer books to browse through. 6g kids don’t notice the gap in the numbers, but I do have a small sign there to indicate that all 973 U.S. books are in the next aisle.
Totally Texas books for 7g Texas History classes
Middle school doesn’t study individual states except Texas and there was little interest in them, so I donated individual State books to an elementary, except 976.4 books for Texas history. There are now no 974-976.3 nor 976.5-979. (Any states info kids need can be found online.)
To complete the Texas Dewey section, I added Texas-related books from 000s-800s, including Texas folktales, as well as some short Texas biographies. (I did change call numbers to align with TX geography and historical periods, and “modified” a few numbers for Texas cultures, folklore, food, & music.)
All the 973 U.S. History and 976.4 Texas History books are now together in a single aisle. Our Fiction area begins right across the aisle, so I moved Texas Fiction books—stories that take place in or deal with Texas—across the aisle from 976.4, thus bridging Texas Dewey & Texas Fiction to make the end of that aisle truly “Totally Texas“!
I put a Texas outline sticker under the spine labels with a transparent color “Lone Star” on top of the spine labels. Seventh graders quickly discovered the new Totally Texas section, and just like with 6g, kids were checking out books they’d never noticed before.
Read America books for 8g U.S. History classes
When I got rid of state books, I did keep those that were topical to overall U.S. History and changed their call numbers to place them in a 973 number so all the U.S. History books are together by geography or by historical period.
- Books about the 13 original colonies became 973.2 Colonial America with their 2-letter State Postal Code instead of author letters.
- Books about natural wonders, historical landmarks, and national or state parks were changed to 973.091, the DDC number for geographical treatment.
- Books about significant U.S. events were changed into 973.2-973.9 for whichever historical U.S. time period they happened.
Our Fiction books for the time periods studied in 8g U.S. History already had the Historical America sticker, so I moved them to the shelves next to Texas Fiction so they are across from the 973 books. Now our Read America fiction and nonfiction also “bridge” across the aisle from each other, and students are checking out more U.S. History books than before.
To complete the identity of Read America and Totally Texas, I hung a huge U.S. map on the wall at the end of the aisle, and added new signage for the “History & Historical Fiction” aisle.
Promoting Reading of the Social Studies Content Special Collections
The real pièce de résistance was at the beginning of the next school year when the Social Studies teachers asked to have a special “orientation” for the new Social Studies Special Collections! To promote reading GlobeTrekkers, Totally Texas, and Read America, I created special bookmarks for students to comment while reading and Reading Records for students to paste into their Interactive Notebooks and record the title and author of books read. When students reach their 10-book reading goal, they receive a Social Studies coupon giving them +5 points added to any Social Studies quiz.
Here’s a synthesized slide presentation I gave to introduce each grade level’s Social Studies classes to their Special Collections.
If you, too, want to promote content reading in Social Studies, you can purchase Reading Promotion for Social Studies Content through my NoSweat Library store on TeachersPayTeachers.